Friday, July 28, 2006

New England Metal & Hardcore Festival reviewed (repost)

This gigantic show review was done as one post after the 2006 NEMHCF .


This past weekend in Worcester attests to the fact that you don't need to go to Europe to get great bands and a great festival. Sure, there was a lot of metalcore, but there was a lot of good music too, and even some of the metalcore kicked ass.

Comments and ratings on each of the 50 bands I saw follow, with any on-the-spot unrelated notes broken out with tildes (this little squiggle thing: ~) above and below. All ratings are subjective and a complete product of the author and the author's biases.


Goddamn It, What Band Is On Now?

Alarum - 3.5/7
I got in halfway through these Aussies' set, but they were decent, just not very well-served by the sound. The main stage was still mostly empty, and these guys had a lot of complexity in their arrangements that the soundboard just wasn't bringing out for them. As will be seen later, a great band fights to overcome sound problems, but these guys weren't that bad, just ill-fitted to this situation.

The US needs to get on the friggin ball with wristbands; fuck this sparkly plastic crap and give us nylon fabric like in Germany!

I realize that with only about 5000 total attendees, many of whom are not there the full 3 days, making custom wristbands with metal closures like Wacken uses probably wouldn't scale, even though it would totally obviate the need for keeping your ticket stub for re-entry. And give me another cool strip to put on my jacket every year, but that's just me being selfish.

The Absence - 4/7
It's an improvement, though slight, over their recorded performance, but only because In Flames isn't playing this year. Still unoriginal, still vaguely boring.

Suicide Silence - NR
I caught about half of their set while buying shit in the dealers' room, located above the second stage. I wasn't really listening, but I did get the impression of a fairly ok deathcore band. Not as nuts as some of the second-stage bands I caught later, but not as lame as much of the mainstage metalcore either.

Thine Eyes Bleed - 4/7
I got back from dropping off my initial haul of CDs in time for a lot of their set, and while their take on metalcore was kind of cool, I as a bassist cannot personally give full marks to any band not employing one. The removal of the low end made an interesting difference to their sound, but the sound system didn't always love these guys, and their music, while occasionally interesting, wasn't really to my taste.

Arsis - 4/7
This is a band whose impact is going to be significantly mediated by what your tastes in deep extremity are. I personally go for Death, Atheist, Cynic, Sigh, and other bands that are a lot more twist than pure blast; Arsis had solid technical chops, but the way that they applied them, to totally insane deathgrind, is something that I can really take or leave. I can understand that people love this shit, and if I had healthy knees, I would have been on the inside of the spontaneous 30-foot weall-of-death pit that ran from the front to the back of the upstairs stage on their final breakdown, rather than in the outside row pushing up.

Demiricous - 5/7
Due to Arsis, I only caught their last song, but these guys were fucking incredible. I was planning to see their full set, but scheduling was royally fucked up all Friday, as evidenced in the title above. I did get their disc, and would heavily recommend them to anyone looking for kickass deathrash.

Nodes of Ranvier - 5/7
This oddly-named band laid down some pretty killer music, mostly thrash metal with a few hardcore touches thrown in, but with a more modern sound than some of the bands later in the festival that the "crossover" label applies more strongly to. Another good act to check out if you can.

The Syrian kebab shop next door to the venue sells something almost entirely, though not completely, unlike a durum doener under the name of a shish kebab sandwich. OK, but there are other items on the menu I need to check out.

I ate every meal that I did not eat at the hotel in this kebab shop (which is billed as a pizza place, but anyone who has been to Germany and tried to get pizza there will never, ever trust Middle Easterners to make Italian food ever again). The best bet is probably their lahmajeen (in Deutschland als 'Lahmacum' bekannt, so pronounce it 'lamajun' with a long u), in terms of volume for price, but the kebab dinners and sandwiches are good stuff as well. Ask the guitarists from 3 about their falafel (more on that later); I didn't get any.

Dead To Fall - 5/7
I caught about half their set, from just before "Chum Fiesta", when the pit went berserk. These guys were good, fairly original, and fucking heavy, definitely not just another machine-stamped metalcore combo.

If Hope Dies - 5/7
This bunch had some nice leads, and were pretty good overall, but the lasting impression from them is of a cut-down Still Remains or Shadows Fall. In my book, this marks them out as "good metalcore" (as much as a lot of these notes will give the impression that this is an oxymoron), but while this band hasn't separated themselves from the trend yet, they certainly do seem to have the potential.

Through The Eyes Of The Dead - 4/7
Pretty good, and it was nice to hear someone biting At The Gates (and to a lesser degree, The Haunted) directly for a change, but despite their chops the derivative impression can't be escaped.

I remember almost nothing about the last two bands listed. Good thing I took notes, otherwise both these bands -- and a couple other ones -- would probably have been just brushed off with "uh...totally unmemorable. They probably sucked, but not enough to really hate them. Fucking metalcore." Friday was a really bad day for musical diversity.

Cephalic Carnage was on on the second stage at this time, but I skipped them because The Acacia Strain is local...and I didn't want to lose my seat. I thoroughly applied the lessons of Wacken about energy management to this festival, and despite some lows on Friday because I didn't eat enough, stayed in top thrashing form for all band that I saw, even to the end of the headliners' sets.

The Acacia Strain - 6/7
I'm not a huge fan, but this band might yet make me one; with wall-thick riffage and fucking intense breakdowns, this band alone could have sufficiently defended the honor of Massachusetts hardcore against all NY and Cali comers at this festival. A kickass performance, with all the brutality and intelligence to be expected from Mass HC.
I was surprised to read in the festival program that these guys were being billed as a metalcore act, but it's the hot thing right now, and my own perceptions of metalcore as a breed are heavily colored by the fact that so many bands playing it suck; placing a good band like these guys into the same bucket just feels wrong. They may have some metal elements, but The Acacia Strain is much more hardcore, and their brutality comes much more from this side.

The Red Chord - 5/7
Unannounced and coming in as a fill-in, these guys pleasantly surprised the crowd with three songs done mostly to kick the schedule back into shape. This is the great thing about the Mass Metalfest; there are so many great bands in the region that if Scott Lee finds out his schedule is fucked at 4 PM, he can call one of the bands that are neither touring elsewhere or already booked at the fest and have them set up and playing by 7:30. I'm not particularly a fan of this band, but I can recognize their skills and give respect for a job well done, especially under adverse circumstances.

Still Remains - 5/7
These fucking short sets are really getting my fucking goat. It felt like these guys were just cranking up,and all of a sudden it's "The Worst Is Yet To Come", and the set's fucking over. Good stuff -- since In Flames isn't playing this year, because In Flames is still using this version of their sound.

I heard at this point that Neuraxis and Necrophagist had both cancelled, and immediately questioned why I had bothered to buy tickets for today at all. Most of the bands so far have decent scores, but none of them would have gotten me in to the first day of the fest on their own. I saw Arsis intending to see Neuraxis, and Necrophagist was to be the oasis in a desert of creatively void metalcore, and now I was feeling not only tired but majorly bummed.

Haste The Day - 4/7
More melodic by far than any of the like a dozen metalcore bands so far today (really only 8, but I lost track), these guys were also the least metal; adding heavy guitars to radio rock does not change its fundamental character. And if you love Jesus so much, WHY ARE YOU THROWING US THE FUCKING HORNS?? What the fuck is this, Penny Arcade? There's nothing inherently wrong with Christian bands, but they still need to pass the suck/don't suck test like everyone else.

Necrophagist - 6.5/7
Ok, they didn't cancel. They just showed up late and blew the doors in with an awesome 5-song set that devastated the crowd, who had been kind of starved for, like, actual metal. HORNS FUCKING UP! More on this band's impact later; for about 35 seconds, in aggregate, Chuck was alive again in the fingers of a short German dude who looks like Pat McNeil, and as technical death metal goes, you really cannot expect much more than that.

A Life Once Lost - 4.5/7
They brought a lot of passion, but in the end, really, were Just Another Fucking Metalcore Band, which is what this entire bill seemed made of. Too many bands, too little difference, too little caring.

Between The Buried And Me - 5/7
One of the better metalcore acts on this bill, but while their prog moments were really cool and interesting, these small burst of greatness also threw the rest of their material into relief, making it come off as fairly boring. The crowd was thoroughly up for them, but fewer people made more noise and more pit motion for Necrophagist.

The Black Dahlia Murder - 6/7
The lead singer's hornrims aside -- probably the driving reason that most of the southeast Michigan underground wants to throw bricks at this band and their fans -- this band put up a fucking thorough performance and demonstrated a fair share of originality, probably the most of the twelve metalcore bands I saw today, to boot. I don't know if I'll be into them on record, but this is one kickass live band, and that deserves full respect.

At this point I moved up to the wall over the floor, where I sat for Lacuna Coil's set, the only set that I watched from a sitting position over the course of the festival. This was possible because the crowd had really cleared out and there were spots to sit available; people had left in large numbers after BTBAM, but after Black Dahlia Murder finished, the front was practically empty. This happened on the other two days, but to a smaller extent, and shows how bad a match Lacuna Coil is for the "true" scene at this point.

Lacuna Coil - 5/7
The last time I saw LC was in this building, headlining this festival, in just about this timeslot. However, that was in 2003, their mainstream breakout was still a few months in the future, and there were a lot more people in the audience. This time was a nice solid set, but marred by an interminable soundcheck and a bogus "encore" that fooled no one. They were actually pretty good, but quite pretentious, and if they just remember how they used to set up when they weren't sole support for Rob Zombie, they'll be fine.


So of the first 18 rated bands on this festival, how did Day 1 go? Who won or lost? And was it worth it?

The last question is pretty dumb; of course it was worth it, it's FUCKING METALFEST. So much metalcore made it a long day, but it definitely paid off in the end.

The big winners were obviously Necrophagist, who came back from an alleged cancellation with a late but thoroughly dominating performance. The evidence -- a huge run on merch immediately after their set, which put about 5-10 percent of total attendees in Necrophagist shirts -- is unmistakable: this band is headed to great places, and will likely in time take their place among the enduring icons of death metal.

Losers are more difficult to assess, if only because I can't decide to call it "Lacuna Coil" or just "everyone on after Between The Buried And Me". Both Black Dahlia Murder and LC put on good performances, but to ever-diminishing crowds. I'm not certain whether this is due to the metalcore-heavy bill shaping the audience, or to the fact that public transit sucks around here and accomodations are hard to come by, so everyone, regardless of taste, may need to leave early. If outdoor venues with camping weren't, in this country, an open invitation for establishment forces to blow up an underage-drinking/public-drunkenness fiasco and close the event down for good, outside would be the next logical step for this festival, in size and for better bill balance.

Of course, it needs to be said that Lacuna Coil took way too fucking long soundchecking. There were maybe 300 people left in the venue when The Black Dahlia Murder closed up, but LC still did a 15-minute check, and lost a lot of what energy was left in the crowd. The professionalism in doing so is admirable, and it was a great chance, maybe the last one for a while, to see Lacuna Coil so close up, but this is not what headlining the Mass Metalfest should be about, and a tighter, quicker check might have presented a better experience for all involved.


That's it for the first day, live from the New England Metalcore Festival.


Fucking Hell, Man, Just Look At This Schedule. When The Fuck Are We Supposed To Eat?

Embrace The End - 5/7
Maybe it was just the new day, and a fresh start, but this bunch of metalcore sounded fairly fresh, mostly brutal hardcore with a few metal touches. Despite the short set, they still came off as pretty good.

Despite having very little interest in anyone going on until Immolation, I sat through band after band; a quality spot with between-set seating this far forward (right in front of the mixing board, on the last level before the floor, basically the same spot I saw Morbid Angel et al from) is hard to find and needs to be defended.

At All Cost - 5/7
Another moderately interesting, moderately original metalcore act, these Texans mix traditional hard rock concepts and structures back into hardcore, and the result is interesting, if not always immediately compelling. The highlight of their set was probably the singer briefly carrying the lead guitarist on his shoulders; the music was decent enough, but with so many bands in the same ouevre, it's the little tricks that can set them apart.

Ion Dissonance - 6/7
After a lot of metalcore crossbreeds, it was refreshing to get a shot like this of straight, pure, unceasingly brutal East Coast Hardcore. Good stuff, though despite the occasional Slayer riff, this wasn't really material I had a heavy interest in.

Into The Moat - 4/7
Cool in places, and the give-and-take with the crowd was neat, but this kind of hardcore that is complicated chiefly for its own sake isn't going to really turn my opinion on it (negative, despite my love for technical and neo-Brechtian death and black metal) around -- or at least not through the agency of this band.

Immolation - 6/7
While not quite as shred- or focus-impressive as Necrophagist, they blew out a solid fucking set, drove out the posers, and gave people waiting for the night bill a shot in the arm. Far too damn short, but what are you gonna do? (Besides go to Death In The Forest, of course; I'll have to see if I can make it out for that.)

Since The Flood - 6/7
A hardcore tour de force, with more melodics than usual, but no less punch. I'm not really in this scene, but even as an outsider I can dig it done well.

Scars Of Tomorrow - 4/7
I caught the end of their set coming back from my extremely early dinner, and while they weren't bad for metal-influenced hardcore, they did come off as pretty average. Missing them to fuel up for the coming stretch ranks as an acceptable loss.

Skinless - 6.5/7
This showcase of hardcore-driven death metal was actually coming in below 6...and then the "Tsunami of Death" was invoked, a full-steam pit-versus-pit assault that with this much room on the floor, is probably more extreme than even the classical "Wall of Death". And people did it, and the slaugher was both mighty and awesome. If I had even one good knee, I would have joined in, preferably up at the rail receiving the wave so I could try and wash some people up onto the stage. If you don't know what the fuck this is about, go see this band -- the music is pretty awesome anyways -- and find out your own risk.

100 Demons - 6/7
Though they may be called 'metalcore' these days, this is what used to be called "crossover" back when Suicidal Tendencies and Cryptic Slaughter were doing it, and it still kicks ass. There's slightly more to crossover than the shorthand "thrash metal with hardcore breakdowns", but really, what do you need beyond that? Good stuff.

Caliban - 7/7
This set was so awesome I thought I was watching Heaven Shall Burn. Seriously, a great live show should take you somewhere else, push you to somewhere new, and these guys did exactly that, while being both less emo and more original than they are on record.

Hate Eternal - 7/7
Even major equipment failure in the mixing board couldn't keep Eric and company down. This set started with immense technical difficulties -- no sound in the guitar at all -- but the band overcame them and proceeded to totally slaughter.
No "Behold Judas" -- maybe we should have yelled louder.

God Forbid - 7/7
Since Shadows Fall wasn't playing, it was up to God Forbid to show exactly how huge a gulf the NWOAHM has between imitators and originators. A thoroughly incredible set of material both old and new, but concentrating mostly on Constitution....

Suffocation - 6.5/7
A colossal set, but Frank still doesn't totally have a handle on when to shut up. They seemed much more comfortable as a band this time around than when I saw them here three years ago, and much more comfortable with this venue than they were at Wacken this past summer.
This is the third time I've seen Suffocation -- more than any other "top-level" band. I'm not crazy about them, so it's a little ironic, but it's not like I fucking mind or anything.

Terror - 5/7
The West Coast lost, and New England won this round. This was a good set, but the Bay State, and to a lesser extent, Tri-State bands earlier in the day had both more aggro and better crowd rapport, both of which are essential for good hardcore. Still a good performance, but better still that our reps defended our home ground successfully. What can I say; I'm a New Englander and proud to be provincial, even about stuff that I can intellectually recognize that it's dumb to be provincial about.

Overcast - 6/7
The historic reunion delivered as anticipated. The asskicking was expected, but the heavy Neurosis influence was not; you'd never really imagine it thinking about Shadows Fall, or especially Killswitch Engage, which Mike D actually founded while Brian was moving into an established band.
With both Brian Fair and Herman Li on the bill, this festival should have won some kind of lifetime achievement award from the Hair Farmers' Association of America; these guys are the respective No.1 and No. 2 in hair length proportional to body size in heavy metal.

Exodus - 7/7
As expected, another lesson in "rocking Metalfest into several small pieces". They were seemed disappointed initially that people weren't moshing, but both sides eventually got over it -- "Piranha" tends to do that -- and appropriate devastation occurred on both fronts.
Exodus might be flattered that the scene considers their shit important and awesome enough to listen to with full concentration rather than jumping around; they'd be less flattered if they thought about it objectively and considered that these kids were being told to get violent by someone their dads' age. Both factors were probably at work in this case.

Chimaira - 6/7
They may have naive ideas about thrash -- thrown into sharper relief by Gary Holt et al in the set immediately preceding -- and may not be completely out of their nu-metal phase, but Chimaira did put on a good show. Nothing was wrong with the crowd -- who the vocalist repeatedly agitated to show more life -- that a better band wouldn't fix, though the only fight of the festival (at least that I saw) did break out during their set.
Observers will also note that Chimaira is the only band on this fest with female dancers. After noting this, they should then ask themselves why.

Arch Enemy - 6.5/7
Despite some problems with Angela's vocal mics, the band delivered a pretty cool set, and as expected got the crowd (which had been diminishing since Exodus) going without Chimaira's bullshit. The floor was as crazy, perhaps more so, despite fewer people being involved.


Today's final discussion is about gender issues in metal. Friday, the ratio was something like 90-10, maybe as high as 95-5. Though Saturday had overall heavier and less mainstream bands, the ration improved to about 80-20. This may be stating the obvious, but "women - they're humans just like you", and contrary to a lot of misconceptions, they enjoy good music -- and much the same definition of good music -- the same as those in the majority of the metal audience. Having internal rather than external genitalia has nothing to do with the potential to become sworn to the black, or have any special influence on what breed of metal you swear to.

The naive response to that improved ratio, given this bill, though, is that Arch Enemy was headlining, and that Angela Gossow is a prototypical third-wave feminist, acceding to conventional (read "patriarchal" if opposed) definitions of beauty while refusing to allow her appearance, rather than her other talents and abilities, define who she is, and that in addition to her role as a kickass vocalist in a very good post-death metal band, she is also an important role model for young women to empower themselves through the agency of the scene and of heavy metal. But then you screw your brain back in and look down into the pit, throughout the show, and see girls throwing themselves around with just as much abandon as the guys, dealing and receiving the same punishment. This leads on into the suspicion that society in metal, or in the Northeast at large, has advanced to the point where difference between male and female is chiefly a matter of body construction, and women feel confident enough in themselves to do whatever the fuck they want to, without the need for explicit "role models" leading Swedish bands.

But empowerment is a two-way street, and if men are not willing to respect women as fellow people, all the self-confidence in the world may not be enough. Given the expense of space and board on tour, Chimaira wouldn't have those girls shaking it up on stage with them if they weren't sure that they were adding value to the band by waving their asses around and feeling themselves up. It's definitely possible, if somewhat schitzophrenic, for a guy to enjoy a dancer showing it off onstage and still think of the girl thrashing out beside him as a person rather than an object, but the problem in this case is that the girls were part of the set basically as just stage dressing, a bikini-clad version of God Forbid's amp scrims. Not a lot of respect implied for them, or perhaps expected from the audience.

The real state of the "female question" in metal is of course somewhere in the middle. There are women who are inspired by Arch Enemy, and women who can really take or leave them according to their general tastes in music. There are guys who get amped up by Chimaira's dancers, and guys who thought it was a cheap gimmick, if not insulting -- to their presumed tastes and intelligence. The lesson is that metal is a society like any other, and like any other, we are making progress, even though we like to think we've already got it right.


That's it for today, live from the second day of the New England Death Metal and Hardcore Festival.



Hypersolid - 4/7
The first rule of heavy metal is that you don't talk about heavy metal onstage. Unless you're like fucking Manowar or Bruce Dickinson or somebody, and a band playing this early on a festival like this does not fall into this category. Their singer's pretentions aside, this was a decent if completely non-memorable set.

Withered - 6/7
Apart from some weird overtone-like shit with the sound that got their playing a little lost in my ears at times, this was just about as awesome a set as could be asked for, especially so early in the day, from four guys who completely got what it means to be underground extreme metal. If Withered is on a bill in your area, they are highly fucking recommended. This collision of sludge and melodic death metal has got to be heard to be believed.

Mercury Switch - 3/7
Adding breakdowns in at the end will not magically make you stop being emo posers. I left after the first stupid and boring song, as soon as the unoriginal and carelessly tacked-on breakdown wrapped.

Goat Horn - 5/7
Not discount Wolf or DragonForce by any means, just good old solid melodic heavy metal. Switching axes off between the bassist and guitarist on one shorter instrumental earned them an aggregate in the range of 30,000 official Metal Scene Respect Points, redeemable for beer with a bearded guy in a black t-shirt near you.
Despite the difficulty of tracking this band's stuff down, their Threatening Force record is worth it for liner notes alone. Go order it now.

Doomriders - 5/7
Basically Boston's entry in the current sludge/doom/core morass, these guys presented a great, thrashed-up take on Sabbath and impressed the crowd, even having to follow Goat Horn. Despite heavy feedback, and a bunch of tuning problems with both guitarists, this was a damn tight set from a damn good band.

3 - 7/7
Absolutely, 100-per-cent, as impressive as advertised. These guys went far beyond complexity for complexity's sake and straight over into pure awesome. Their dual guitar work was the most impressive I saw outside of the two headline bands this night, and the percussion duet that their two drummers put on, especially its conclusion on cymbals alone, was just ferociously tight and inspiring. Not a band to miss at any cost.
I ran into these guys in the kebab shop next door earlier, though I didn't realize it at the time. The lackof cordoned-off "VIP" areas and the ability to just run into musicians randomly and discover whether or not they like onions on their falafel is one of the really great things about this festival.

Burn In Silence - 4/7
I was tempted to cut this band some slack -- they were fighting a very thin and unenthusiastic crowd, most of whom looked like they were camping the front row for DragonForce -- and give them another point, but better sense prevailed. Despite individual chops, this band seems like 55 percent of a death metal band and 45 percent of a hardcore act stuck together at odd angles, and the resulting mix doesn't always work. They made the best of a bad situation, but they have a way to go before becoming memorable or any more than average.

Cannae - 5/7
If someone tells you these guys are metalcore, they are at least stupid, and probably also lying. Just a few thrash twinges, but thoroughly mixed down into strong death metal. Dunno if I'll actually follow them in the future, but they were a good live act and put on a nice tight set.

Byzantine - 5.5/7
I never expected to catch a nu-metal driven band on this bill (well, after Chimaira), let alone rate them this high. That's not hardcore that's being mixed into this band's death metal, and the result is pretty interesting -- and it also rocks, which is the actual important part. Good stuff.

Into Eternity - 6/7
Despite the bullshit on their CD covers, these guys recalled neither Death nor Dream Theater half as much as the little-known and long-defunct Dutch thrashers Imperium, who were doing this kind of heavy, complex, moshable power metal back at the turn of the '90s. (Of course, nobody but me has ever fucking heard of this band, so it's natural that people need other points of comparison.) Kickass, tight, set including some new material, and I'd definitely recommend looking into their forthcoming yet-unreleased disc, even if their current material doesn't really turn your crank.

Wolf - 6/7
Power metal is not really my thing, but these guys delivered a solid performance that had the crowd rocking out. They looked tired in places, especially the bassist (probably jetlag), but never let it carry over into the music.

It struck me at this point that at this moment, I may well have been the only person in the audience who had ever previously seen DragonForce live. Five or six hundred people in DragonForce gear, and only the dude in the Tankard shirt has ever actually seen them play.

Bronx Casket Co. - 4/7
This band not only did not have very good material for a fest like this, but were facing a restive, hostile, crowd that wouldn't stop yelling "DRAGONFORCE!!!" at any break in the music. They handled it professionally for the first thirty minutes of their 40-minute set, and then Jack Frost flipped off the crowd, who had been giving him the finger and thumbs-down as well as the horns intermittently for the 20 or so minutes preceding. Two songs later, they closed up abruptly, so much so that I had to check their setlist (dropped under the mixing board that I was standing in front of) to make sure that they hadn't gotten chased early by the crowd negativity.
Given that this band includes both Jack Frost and DD Verni, I'm thoroughly expecting to find drama relating to this on Blabbermouth today.

- 7/7
Every band dreams of a North American debut like this: to a packed hall screaming their names, following their every command, going totally fucking nuts. Despite some technical problems (Sam drove another guitar out of tune, but the backup axe was set up properly this time), and one hitch with ZP's voice (potentially a practical joke), the set was tighter than at Wacken and overall better delivered. With a recepetion like this, they'll be back, but who knows if the energy'll be this intense?
I had no frickin' clue that Inhuman Rampage won't be out till the end of June. It came out in fucking January in Europe; what the fuck is Roadrunner's major malfunction??

Gamma Ray - 7/7
Despite a FUCKING INTERMINABLE soundcheck, Gamma Ray came out and absolutely bulldozed, kicking out a strong set and a legitimate encore -- the crowd was cheering and yelling because we hadn't had enough and, being one in the morning, the band legitimately could have packed it in. Despite there being only about 500 people in the joint, they went through their whole gig/fan-participation routine, accepting crowd exhaustion but still pushing us to our very limits. A convincingly crowning performance to end the current King of North American Festivals; if people didn't know, and know they were living, "Heavy Metal Universe", they certainly know and live it now.


Today's issue is less gamesmanship than Friday and less OMG SOCIALLY RELEVANT than Saturday: diehard fans. DragonForce, in spite, or perhaps because, of never playing in the States before, has a cult following of a rabidity comparable among present-day bands only to Slayer. These kinds of cults or, to use a term from European football, "ultras", are great at normal gigs, and by nature buy lots of merch (making it profitable for bands to develop and encourage ultras), but because their fanaticism is so narrowly applied, they tend to cause trouble at festivals, just as football ultras are perfectly fine hanging out at their home pubs, but will ocasionally cause riots when they bump into ultras of other clubs at matches.

Probably because very few of DragonForce's shock troops are of legal age, they did not throw beer on Bronx Casket Co., but they did fuck up their set as much as they were able, being the most hostile of any crowd at this event. If it had been Slayer ultras in this position, having to sit through an uninspiring band when they'd been waiting hours to see their idols, they likely would have eviscerated the bouncers and brained Jack and DD with the bones. Given enough numbers, the weight of fanaticism itself is enough to cause trouble, regardless of whether the fanatics involved have violent tendencies or not.

This is the essential problem with ultras, no matter what they're ultras of. As a leaven to normal fans, a few can go a long way and drastically raise the total energy level. In large concentrations, though, the potential for trouble, given the opportunity, is always there, simply because of the concentrated fanaticism. Festivals, with an uneven band mix and schedule anarchy being practically givens, will also always provide the opportunity.

I like DragonForce, despite the fact that they still have a ways to go. But I like heavy metal more, and while I can repsect those who are ultras of particular bands, I'd rather be an ultra for the genre as a whole. If you're crazy about a particular band, fine, but don't demonstrate it by being a dick to other bands and their fans. In the end, we're all of us in this together. I'm not going to fucking tell other people what to listen to, but if you're not into a band and for whatever reason don't want to use their set to take a piss, grab a beer, or eat some food, it's still an option to just stand with your arms crossed and not bang rather than starting shit. We need the contributions of everyone, especially the dedication and commitment of the ultras -- of all bands -- in building the metal society, and the same argument that is used for unity between metal, punk, and hardcore applies here as well: we have our differences, but we are taking on a common enemy that is larger than any of us, and we can fight over the spoils after we win the war.


That's it, live from the final day of the New England Heavy Metal and Whatevercore Festival.


total bands: 50
average score Friday: 4.86
average score Saturday: 5.86
average score Sunday: 5.32
three-day average: 5.35/7


This point now involves some reader participation, to pick the awesomest and lamest T-shirt of three selected examples collected at this festival. The lamest shirts have been preselected by day, the awesome shirts are not, because I didn't see anyone on Friday wearing a shirt with enough awesome to make a note of it on the level of those from Saturday and Sunday. Shirt lameness was selected with an initial filter of "wearer obviously thinks this is cool, but it totally fails". Results to be posted in the case that they actually occur.

Vote by day:
FRIDAY - "Umbrella Corporation" As video games go, Resident Evil is pretty metal...but a blue shirt with a red-and-white pinwheel on it is not.
SATURDAY - "I bang chicks on Myspace" We're supposed to be impressed by this how and why??
SUNDAY - "I'M SINGLE" Given the ratios involved, it is more or less statistically impossible for a guy to go home from a metal show with a girl that he did not come to the show with. Proclaiming your unattachedness in spray paint on a white shirt that's obviously taken a few spins in the washer with your black shirts is not going to help this, and will probably diminish your chances down to the vanishing point.

Vote by day:
SATURDAY - "You can't have Manslaughter without Laughter" Put a clipart of a guy who looks like the Church of the Sub-Genius' mascot holding a cleaver over this phrase, and you have a shirt at once witty, metal, and totally awesome.
SUNDAY 1 - "No Job - No Money - No Car - But I'm In A Band" Doesn't this sum up the whole of the scene? With my job demands, I'm obviously not in that "1 percent" that sacrifices absolutely everything for metal, but that doesn't mean that it's not the ideal. Full-on AWESOME.
SUNDAY 2 - "More Cowbell" Even if this does not get the final pick, it will still win Most Awesome Shirt by Main Stage Band Member. Worn by one of Cannae's guitarists, the ability to accept and celebrate the silliness of some parts of metal as well as its power and honesty is what will keep us sane, focused, and grounded as a scene -- and it looks awesome on a t-shirt, which is the selection criteria here.

No comments: